for the love of crape myrtles

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Here we are heading south on highway 168, the access road to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. From southern Delaware and south, the coastal areas have such lovely crape myrtles in bloom this time of year.
I have fond memories of spotting the trees on the way to the beach as a child. It seems every house along the road whether abandoned or lived in, grand or dilapidated, has at least one crape myrtle out front.
Just about every gas station has one too.
Some consider them a shrub because of their multi-trunk, vase-shaped habit. They get as big as trees, though, especially if they've been there 50 years. They are popular because they are tough, thrive in the heat, and come in a pretty array of colors from bright scarlet to soft lavender.
When I see a big one in front of a tumble-down shack, I can imagine the home in a time when someone had hope enough to put something pretty in the yard. I think I'm partial to the lavender...
Excuse the glare- these photos were all taken out the car window as we sped along trying to make good time getting to the resort area. Shame on the hubs for refusing to stop at the roadside nursery!

4th street, philadelphia (also known as fabric row)

Friday, July 22, 2011

I've been back to Fabric Row again! Go here for a past post with a map and directions. I really should come back more often. It reminds me so much of NYC and of Project Runway which is starting it's new season next week. This time I brought my daughter and my sister-in-law, Dana. Emma is going to be the flower girl in Dana's upcoming wedding, so we were on the hunt for occasion fabrics.
Outside Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet, barrels of cheap bolts hint at bargains to be found inside.
It's not all junk inside, though. Though a roundabout series of events that I won't go into, we wound up getting this lovely ivory embroidered border organza that echoes the embellishing on the bodice of Dana's gown. It will be overlaid on ivory bridal satin.
With fabric like this I decided it wasn't necessary to reinvent the wheel with the style. I've made this simple style before. It's got a crinoline underneath for pouf and I'll add a nice fat dupioni sash to match the celery color bridesmaid dresses.
Mission accomplished, we did some wandering just for fun. Emma enjoyed browsing in Albert Zoll, a notions store.
That's a lot o' buttons!
Inside Phuongs. The place to go for tulle and perhaps to have a pageant gown made.
If you ever find yourself on Fabric Row at lunchtime, you must go to the 4th Street Delicatessen. It's been here since 1923, an amazing feat with how quickly businesses come and go.
The interior is all original black and white deco tiles and fixtures.
When in an authentic Jewish deli and you're not a vegetarian... the pastrami reuben. This is the "small".
And if you're a vegetarian... potato pancakes with sour cream & apple sauce. Oh yeah...
The guys next to us asked if we'd like to photograph their balls. Ahem, matzoh balls, that is.
It seems Barack Obama was here too. I wonder if he bought some fabric and ordered the pastrami.

order in the chirp & bloom studio!

Monday, July 18, 2011

I just completed a major deep cleaning of the studio! I just can't think when there's too much chaos, and I need order with the busy fall I have ahead... I just was notified that I am showing at the Clover Market in Ardmore, PA three dates this fall: September 18, October 16, & November 6. And I'm waiting to hear from an additional show somewhere else in October. I'd also like to do a show or two for the holidays. That means a lot of sewing & new designs ahead. I also have the finishing touches to put on our attic guest room renovation which has been dragging on forever and a flower girl dress to make for a family wedding in September. A clean studio is essential.
My fabric piles are the first to get out of hand.
I'm trying something new: using a folding board. The kids actually thought it was fun and wanted to help. For regular yardage, the procedure is to first fold the fabric lengthwise, selvedges together. Then fold the other way until you have an easily manageable piece roughly the size above.
My board is just a scrap of foam core that happened to be 1/3 the width of my fabric shelves, so it makes pieces that fit 3 stacks per shelf perfectly. I also have a smaller board for fat quarters and small scraps. Now all you do is fold the fabric over the board, and pull it out.
Fold the piece back on itself one last time and that forms a nice clean edge that will face out on the shelf.
And while I'm at it, it just feels satisfying to put my bobbins and thread in color order.
And why not the embroidery floss? There's just something about rainbows...
What the heck, here's a tour of the rest of the studio... Newly unearthed, a place for a friend to sit, visit, and peruse back issues of Marie Claire Idées and Domino
I've added a dedicated shipping station, so everything I need to send packages is in one spot. It can get crazy around the holidays and I'm determined to stay on top of it.
Individual bins for projects in progress keep things orderly. Each bin holds all the elements for one item, so labels & trims stay with the right piece. If I have more than 6 projects going at once, I know I'm in trouble.
Finally, a clean sewing station. I learned my lesson about the importance of a clean sewing area the hard way. It only takes one dirty smudge on an almost finished garment. I just don't have time for that!

lavender lemonade (small batch) recipe

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ever since the PA Lavender Festival, I've had lavender lemonade in the back of my mind. Today I noticed we had a few lemons lying around, so why not try making some? My boy loves to use the manual juicer, so I let him go to town.
Here is my small batch recipe- which makes only 2 or 3 glasses- adapted from the larger batch recipes out there:
1 cup hot water
2 TBS culinary lavender
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 3 or 4 lemons)
1 cup cold water
ice (duh)
I bought a few bags of culinary lavender on our trip to Willow Pond Farm.
The first step is to steep the lavender in the hot water until it cools. Strain out the buds, then dissolve the sugar in the lavender water. Mix in the lemon juice and cold water and serve over lots of ice.
This drink may be my new favorite, putting the Arnold Palmer in the #2 slot. Oh, it is so good!

vintage embroidery love

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The family's been enjoying another quilt from Mom's stash of Grandma's handiwork. Someone in the family needs to do an official count of how many quilts she's made- starting with at least one for each of her 25 grandchildren.
Mom & I are a lot like Grandma in that we always like to have a project to keep the hands busy. I feel restless if I sit down to watch a movie and don't have any hand sewing to work on.
This quilt was probably made in the 1970's with Grandma's 1940's sensibility.
The charming naiveté of the motifs makes me think of the 1940's.
How busy farm women like her found time to do quilting & needlework is a mystery to me.
She also made day-of-the-week dish towels for everyone, but I'm afraid mine are in bad shape from use.
I've been snapping up embroidered dresser scarves and hobby embroidery with a similar feel whenever I see fun ones at the vintage store. I think they will make great pillows. Who uses dresser scarves anymore, right?
I was procrastinating doing the backs because I don't love doing buttonholes. Then Mom had the idea of using the plackets of dress shirts (of which I have plenty). SHAZAM! It works perfectly and adds an element of surprise.
And while I'm on this recycling kick, why not repurpose my serger scraps for pillow stuffing?
I'll get some listed in the shop soon hopefully. I think they'll go over well at my upcoming craft shows too!